We'll, it's certainly that time of year. USHL training camps and preseason action are ramping up and final descions are being made on roster cuts.It's not unusual to see players cut early from one team and then show up at another teams camp for a tryout. This seems to be the case for the Phantoms, adding two forwards cut early from the Muskegon Lumberjacks as USA Hockey and the USHL's team rosters are showing some new additions. 

First up is Tyler Drevitch, a '95 birth year forward, a Merrimack College commit, who split last season between the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Muskegon Lumberjacks, playing 59 games during the regular season and 11 playoff games.With only 1 goal and 4 assists in his first USHL season, Drevitch is more of a utility forward with a rounded set of skills and is not afraid to drop the gloves. Coming into camp with a full season experience in the league as well as a good playoff run, he may have an advantage over a few guys.

The other is Alex Esposito. Alex is not a stranger to the Phantoms, making it to the All-Star game in last season spring tryout camp. Alex's younger brother, Eric Esposito, is also in the Phantoms camp this year and shown good offensive skills and looks to be a top contender for a final roster spot. Alex, a '96 birth year forward had played promisingly during through prep school at the Loomis Chaffee School and is looking to make the jump up to tier 1 junior hockey.

Both have good potential and in the case of Drevitch, we have an open spot of another '95 on the roster. There are also a few more chances to grab a slot on the 23-man final roster for forwards. Even so, this years camp looks as competitive as ever and both players are coming into camp with little time left to prove themselves. Even veteran status doesn't guarantee a spot for regular season. Look for both of these players to give 110% in the Pittsburgh Showcase games this weekend to try to make up for lost time. I'd also recommend for returning players and rookies thinking they're doing good in camp so far to step it up a notch, sometimes the added pressure to not get cut from a second team can push a guy to the next level.

With just a little more than a month to go until the puck drops on a new season a lot is still up in air for the Phantoms. With a new head coach incoming and a lot of empty roster spots to fill, pretty much all we really have is the schedule and that's still more than a little fuzzy. Here's what we do know. More than a few teams have released better updated schedules so most of our road game dates and times are set. Most teams are showing their road games, our home games, as 7:00 PM or 7:05 PM starts. These are probably assumed from last seasons schedule and I'm assuming that 7:05 PM will be the standard evening game start time.

The biggest unannounced item is the pair of preseason games in Cranberry, PA at the new UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The Phantoms participation in the event was announced with dates but now we have opponents and times. On Friday, September 18th, the Phantoms will face the USA NTDP U17 squad and the following day they'll play the U18s. Game times are 8:00 PM and 7:00 PM respectively. Muskegon will face the other NTDP squad earlier in the day, 5:00 PM and 4:00 PM respectively, if you want to see our rivals in preseason action. Another unannounced, and still tentative, item is the Kids Day Game which will probably be held the morning of December 2nd.

None of the dates or times are set in stone. One originally announced date has already been rescheduled. The game vs Cedar Rapids Saturday February 20th has been moved to the next day, the 21st. No word has been given if this is a scheduling conflict with the Covelli Centre or something else. Also, the Saturday October 10th game vs Chicago will need to be moved due to a Darius Rucker concert announced after the schedule was released. There has been no word on a new date. I'm sure some of the Saturday and Sunday games will be afternoon games too.

Edit 8/21/15: On 9/8/15 the Phantoms will play the NAHL Johnstown Tomahawks in a scrimmage at the Ice Zone.

I'm back after a few months of not much to say. The heartbreak of the game 4 loss to the 'Jack left me too depressed to even write a recap. Despite the early playoff exit, the 2014-2015 season was probably the best season for the Phantoms in terms of developing players and growing the sport of hockey in the Mahoning Valley. The addition of the Loneys to the ownership and an All-Star performance by the front office made as much of a difference in the turn around from the previous season as did the play on the ice. That said, the off-season has been a whirlwind and a lot of the solid foundation that last seasons success was based on will need to be rebuilt. It was pretty much assumed that scoring powerhouses Kyle Connor and Max Letunov would be departing. Team captain Josh Nenadal aged out and was heading out, as was Ryan Lomberg, Taylor Best and trade deadline acquisition Alec Vanko. In addition, every year a handful of players are going to leave for NCAA commitments. Not long after the excitement of the NHL draft and the Phantoms first even first round draft pick, Head Coach and General Manager Anthony Noreen landed a AA Pro head coaching position with the Orlando Solar Bears, the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since then former assistant GM and Director of Player Personnel Jason Koehler has been promoted to GM and the search is still underway for a replacement for Noreen. We're already less than two and a half months from dropping the puck on the regular season.

In previous season by now we would have a copy of most, if not all, of the leagues 30-man protected list. Protected lists are like lists of players whose rights to play in the league are held by particular teams. After the draft, teams are allowed to protect 45 players they feel will be able to compete for a roster spot. By July 10th this list needs to be trimmed to 30 players, usually determined in tryout camps. Last season, the list was 'leaked' by a respected hockey journalist the next day and the official list wasn't released to the public until September. This year, we don't have a 'leak' and no teams are releasing official lists. What we do have is a partial confirmation of some players and the ability to add in a few others from press releases, as well as a little speculation. Vindicator reporter Tom Williams confirmed 10 returning players and 2 affiliates from last season. The returning players are (in no particular order): Colin DeAugustine, Matt Miller, Vas Kolias, Ty Farmer and Kris Myllari, Chase Pearson, James Winkler, Kevin Conley, Matt Alvaro and Lukas Craggs. In addition, also confirmed was affiliates Ryan Bednard and Ryan Shae, both having played some games for the Phantoms last season and both NHL draft picks. Additionally, prior to the draft the Phantoms tendered forward Jacob Tortora which should lock him into a roster slot for next season. Though not guaranteed a spot, the Phantoms also traded a 3rd round Entry Draft pick in next years draft to acquire Sam Craggs. Sam is the brother of Lukas Craggs and was an affiliate player for the Muskegon Lumberjacks who played 3 games in the USHL last season.